Does your chest pound a little harder whenever your child climbs up the jungle gym or rides a bicycle for the first time? Do you feel heartbroken whenever your child cries when she loses a game? You’re not alone.
As parents, we can’t help but become concerned for our children, especially when they make decisions that are contrary to what we think is right. Whenever this happens, we tend to shelter or hover over our children. Helicopter parenting may be born out of love and worry, but studies have shown that watching your child too closely may do more harm than good — it can lead to your kids having an overly-entitled attitude or worse, it might lead to childhood anxiety. How can we circumvent this?
New research shows we may be able to help our kids from developing future anxiety by encouraging them to take “safe risks.”
Researchers from Australia, the Netherlands, and England surveyed 312 families with preschool-aged kids and found that parents who used "Challenging Parent Behavior" (CPB) had kids with significantly lower anxiety levels and were less at risk of exhibiting anxiety disorder symptoms.
CPB is a parenting method that “encourages safe risk-taking in children such as giving them a fright, engaging in rough-and-tumble play, or letting them lose a game, as well as encouraging them to practice social assertion and confidently enter into unfamiliar situations.”
“While previous research has shown that encouraging risk-taking behaviors help cognitive, social and emotional development, our study shows that this method of parenting may also help reduce the risk of children developing an anxiety disorder,” explains Professor Jennie Hudson, Director of Center for Emotional Health at Macquarie University in Australia and co-author of the study.
Anxiety in kids is often hard to detect, but too much pressure from the parents can be a factor in causing it. And what this research shows is that kids can benefit from parents loosening the reins a bit.
Taking risks and conquering fears can be a good thing — your kids can develop the resilience that way. You can let them loose on the playground and let them play on the monkey bars, so they can discover that they’re capable of doing things when they take a chance. It will boost their confidence and encourage them to do more tasks that seem impossible at first. And if you let them lose once in a while they learn that it’s not the end of the world—they will survive, and things will turn out okay. They can just try harder next time.
It’s a harsh lesson that all parents must learn, but it can lead to good results. “By gently reasonably encouraging their kids to push their limits, parents could be helping to reduce their child’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder, which is a great insight,” adds Hudson.